Recently, we received a hand-written letter from a Ms Victoria Harwood, a resident of Nottingham.
As a Leeds based pest control company, the letter was intriguing. Reading on, the subject was regarding an incident where a Nottingham homeowner, after being refused help from a local pest control company, took matters into their own hands, and treated a bee nest found on their property with bleach and boiling water.
Stressing the importance of bees, Ms Harwood went on to ask if we might consider including the phone number of the British Beekeepers Association on our website and social media channels, for those who uncover bees on their property.
The importance of bees
The world’s most important pollinator of food crops, one third of the food we consume relies on pollination by bees, and their contribution is significant in the pollination of cotton and flax.
In 2008, the British Beekeepers Association estimated that honeybees make a significant contribution to the £165 million, annually generated for the UK economy through food and crops pollinated by insects.
They might be all buzzy and scary, but apples, pears, runner beans, strawberries, blackberries and 34 other commercial crops rely heavily on bees.
There are 25 native species of Bumble Bee in the UK, and while this number may sound healthy, three species are already extinct, two critically endangered and many more are seriously declining in numbers.
Bees and pest control
Ms Harwood’s letter struck a chord with us at Key West Pest Control, particularly our founder Sean Mclean.
Compliant with BPCA (British Pest Control Association) guidelines, Sean has felt for some time that for callers with a bee problem, there should be a system in place where they can be referred to those who can not only help remove the bees, and the caller’s problem, but do so safely to preserve this important creature.
In-line with our promise to provide the very best customer experience, Key West want no caller left high and dry, so the situation in Ms Harwood’s letter never need happen again.
While it’s well established amongst those in the industry, that UK pest control companies do not treat or remove bees, the large number of calls we receive each year to tend to a bee problem, indicate that the public at large are not aware of this.
On their website, the governing board of the Pest Control industry, the BPCA, clearly state that “Pest controllers do not apply bee treatments unless there is a serious threat to human life”.
Key West and the summer bee-boom
When we receive a call regarding bees, our experienced staff are trained to deploy an assessment of the situation over the phone.
Callers are asked a series of questions about the appearance of the pest in question, where they’re located, if they’re swarming, if there’s a nest etc. In many cases, due to these questions, a call originally regarding the removal of bees, has led to an appointment to treat a wasp problem or remove a nest, after a misidentification by the customer.
Adversely, there have been a handful of occasions where our technicians have arrived on site to treat a wasp problem, to find that the customer’s property is in fact home to bees.
In the rare event that this situation presents itself, our technicians advise the resident how to secure the home from bees (should the problem be outside the home), how to be safe around the insect, and recommend the customer contact a beekeeper, offering contact details where possible and when available to the technician.
There could be many reasons why the public don’t seem to connect a bee problem across their property with beekeeping. Afterall, pest control is the last emergency service. See something buzzy and stingy where it shouldn’t be? Pest Control! Secondly, the clue to this disconnection could be in the name. They’re called beekeepers, not beecollectors, though many beekeeping associations offer this service.
Whilst we do all we can for callers with a bee problem, the receipt of Ms Harwood’s letter has brought forth a whole new process for situations such as these.
Joining forces with beekeepers
After a call to the local Leeds Beekeepers Association, sharing Ms Harwood’s letter with the team there, we arranged a visit to the Temple Newsam apiary, and a new partnership was born.
Our founder Sean and technician Paul met with head beekeeper Kirit Gordhandas, who showed the team around the apiary, while they discussed how pest control and beekeepers can work together to protect bees and aid distressed homeowners.
Leeds Beekeepers Association
Kirit agreed to be interviewed by our team, to give the public a little insight into what beekeepers do, how they can assist the public with removing their bee problem, and how partnering with us, and receiving our bee referrals, will make a difference.
“The bees aren’t doing as well as they used to, so any colony we can save or help prosper in a new location really helps”, comments Kirit.
He went on to explain the importance of safely removing bees in order to continue not only colonies of bees, but whole species. Describing their mating process, he noted the importance of genetic diversity to ensure that the bees are disease free, and therefore no danger to the public.
In regard to the important work that beekeepers do, Kimit and the team ensure their colonies are healthy, and work to align the interests of the bees, beekeepers and the general public.
In peak season however, this work-load changes. Mr Gordhandas revealed that the Leeds Beekeepers Association can receive up to 5 calls a week requiring them to remove bees, during the warmer months.
About the process of removal, Kimit commented, “If you can get hold of the queen, the rest will follow in”.
A swarm box is taken to the site, either a specialist box or a common-all-garden cardboard box will do fine, the box is placed down in situ, and the team wait for the bees to enter, returning to the box a few hours later before bringing the bees safely back to the apiary.
Beyond the assistance in protecting and rehabilitating bees, of the partnership with us, Kimit spoke of how he’s glad to be working together towards saving the bees, and of his hope that the coverage gained by our campaign will help to make the public aware of the importance of bees, and reduce the fear felt towards them, safe in the knowledge that we will refer our callers to the LBA, or that the public will go directly to them.
A new partnership
At Key West, we receive a steady supply of enquiries during the summer months, that in some way relate to bees.
Often the public misdiagnose a wasp problem, and when our team arrive, they’re faced with a creature they cannot treat or remove.
Sean commented, “The idea of Key West, or any pest control company removing or killing bees just doesn’t sit very well with me. I know how important they are for the environment”.
Last year we partnered with the Leeds Beekeepers Association to take care of 3 cases of bee swarms, and we look forward to working together more closely next year.
We at Key West hope that with the tools afforded to us by social media, blogs such as this, Ms Hardwood’s letter, and other coverage relating to this partnership, and the protection of bees generally, will reach and influence the public.